2007-07-03 / News

State Reps report progress on insurance

By Tom Shevlin

Jamestown's state delegation gave a mixed report to the Press on this year's legislative session, which has just wrapped up.

State Representative Bruce Long (R-Jamestown, Newport) and State Senate Majority Leader Teresa Paiva-Weed (D-Jamestown, Newport) each expressed their commitment to working on behalf of the interests of Jamestown residents, however noted that some of their efforts fell short.

Progress has been made with regard to legislative efforts to curtail the rising cost of coastal homeowner's insurance as well as legislation aimed at reducing the cost of school transportation, however other initiatives such as the town's proposed tax free arts district failed to garner the support of the full assembly.

In an interview conducted by the Press, Long said that efforts to address coastal residents' concerns over the rising tide of homeowner insurance cut offs and increased premiums had been a major focus of his legislative session and were moving along quicker than anticipated. Long, who joined Newport Rep. Paul Crowley (D) and Westerly Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy (D) in an informal committee early in the legislative session, quickly saw house leadership formalize their efforts by forming a special house committee to address the problem.

From that committee, three pieces of legislation aimed at reigning in the cost of insurance, establishing a system of private disaster modeling oversight used in rate setting, and making it more difficult for insurers to cancel or non-renew based on geography were crafted and introduced. They are expected to be taken up again in the next legislative session.

Due to the comprehensive nature of the issue, both Long and Paiva-Weed said that it would be unrealistic to expect all aspects of the insurance issue to be resolved in one session, but the legislation that had been crafted was a start.

In addition, Long reported that his bill to allow smaller vehicles such as minivans to be used for school transportation passed both chambers and is expected to be affirmed by the governor, while his bill to reduce the amount spent on out-of-district transportation will be taken up again next year. According to Long, both bills were worked on extensively by School Committee Chairwoman Cathy Kaiser and should result in savings for the town.

Meanwhile, Paiva-Weed, as State Senate Majority Leader, conceded that legislation she introduces in the assembly can be "broader in nature," however, she stressed the importance of first representing the interests of her constituents.

In addition to supporting legislation that would create a tax-free arts district on the island, Paiva- Weed also expressed her belief in the importance of providing communities such as Jamestown with predictability in their annual state aid. According to Paiva-Weed, "predictability is critical" in order to ensure and develop high performing schools such as Jamestown's. However, she conceded that the state's budget crisis has made that predictability hard to achieve.

She also applauded the town council and island residents for their "consistent, clear opposition" to plans to bring LNG tankers through Narragansett Bay. Paiva- Weed remarked that such local opposition to LNG had been successful in gaining the attention of state and federal authorities.

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